Learning through play, at a conference

Peter Gray was the keynote speaker at the IntegratED professional development event in San Francisco on October 3 and 4. He’s a professor at Boston College and his research is in the area of how kids learn by play. He has studied this in hunter/gatherer cultures and also in modern settings. His main point is that kids learn through play and that a lot of the compulsory educational activities we “do” to kids isn’t really necessary. If given time, kids will figure things out. Let them deeply explore what they are passionate about, and it will pay big dividends (beyond just economic success) for them later in life.

Like most education PD events, after the workshops and other conference related activities were done for the day, I’d find myself out and about for dinner and drinks with the other attendees. While the event was done, our learning kept going. Without the constraint of the clock of the conference schedule or the constraint of the title topic on the program, our conversations and debates would take us to what we were passionate about. We were “off the clock” and could talk about anything we wanted to, but the conversations kept coming back to teaching and learning. It was our choice to explore (in our conversations) our experiences as educators. Judging by the amount of laughter that was part of these conversations, you could definitely say that it was very playful.

I’ve heard other people say that the best part about conferences are the conversations that happen at lunch, dinner, and during the car ride home. This was definitely the case for me at #isf14. The scheduled learning was top-notch. The follow-up playful learning was extraordinary.

I’m a big fan of the IntegratED learning events that are organized by Darren Hudgins of the OETC. I’ve been to the Portland conference twice and just went to the San Francisco version for the first time. The official sessions during the day certainly lead to excellent conversations that last beyond the conference.

Here’s a photo of me and some “playmates” after the event. I’m thrilled that I can call these educational leaders my friends. (clockwise from me: Kelly Kermode, Rachel Wente-Chaney, Karl Lindgren-Streicher, Kristen Swanson, Kristina Peters)


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